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Republicans Backing Off Replacement of Obamacare?; Trump Rolls Back Financial Regulations; Trump vs. Iran. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired February 3, 2017 - 3:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: I read it somewhere.


ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is a long story about how Robert Kraft, I think, misplaced one of his rings, and somehow it ended up with the Russian KGB or something.

BALDWIN: I'm just saying.

SCHOLES: You're right to that effect.


SCHOLES: I have heard that story before.


BALDWIN: Will it appear? You can bet on that as well. Andy Scholes, have such an amazing time. Happy football on Sunday.

SCHOLES: I will, believe me.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Let's roll on.

All right, continuing on, top of the hour. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN.

Back with breaking news here with Iran, Iran calling new U.S. sanctions illegal, as we get a blistering new statement from the White House on Iran.

This is from the national security adviser, General Michael Flynn, condemning Iran for its missile test over the last weekend, saying -- quote here -- "The international community has been too tolerant of Iran's bad behavior. The days to turning a blind eye to Iran's hostile and belligerent actions toward the United States and the world community are over."

The statement coincides with these new Iran sanctions and a warning from President Trump on Twitter that Iran is playing with fire. This is just the latest, right, on the back and forth on developments in the foreign policy front by the Trump administration, including a surprising condemnation of Israel's plans for new settlements on the West Bank and an even tough stance on the Russian's interference in Crimea.

Some noting these moves are similar to those made by the Obama administration.

Let's begin with Jim Acosta, our CNN senior White House correspondent, and Nic Robertson, our senior international diplomatic editor.

Nic, just first with you on Iran now calling these new U.S. sanctions illegal. These sanctions, according to Sean Spicer, were already in the pipeline from the previous administration. Why say this now?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: They believe that these sanctions have been vetted, they have had scrutiny and therefore that they can put these through knowing that the groundwork has been cleared for them.

They were in the pipeline, as Sean Spicer said. But what the Iranian position on this is, they're not going to take this lying down. One the one hand, they are saying this is not a missile system that is intended to carry nuclear weapons, but they are saying that the United States is essentially not going to stop them doing what they think is in the best interest of their country.

It's, if you will, a standoff that's clearly developing here, and Spicer not giving any indication of what else might be on the table in terms of ratcheting up the pressure on Iran to conform with international expectations on this issue.

BALDWIN: We know when the question was shouted yesterday at the president what about military action, he said not off the table. So there's that.

Jim, to you. In listening to the White House briefing today with Sean Spicer, he was asked about additional action against Iran and again reiterating what I just said, all options on the table. Here he was.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: One of the things that the president has said throughout the campaign, during the transition and since becoming president is that he doesn't like to telegraph his options. That's how he believes he can have a much greater successful option.

So I'm not going to go into the full extent. And I think today's sanctions really represent a very, very strong stand against the actions that Iran has been taking and make it very clear that the deal that they struck private previously was in the in the best interest of this country and that President Trump is going to do everything he can to make sure that Iran has stayed in check.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BALDWIN: All options on the table, won't say more. How are you interpreting that?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, Brooke, I think we should step back maybe just a baby step only because we have seen this game played before.

And when the stakes are this high, I hesitate to call it a game, but this whole idea, this whole question of, well, are all options on the table, is the military option on the table, we heard those sorts of questions asked of the Obama White House when they were dealing with a variety of issues.

And you're never going to have a White House or I wouldn't think you would ever have a president say, yes, we're taking options off the table, we're taking the military option off the table when it comes with dealing with Iran. No White House is going to do that. And so that's why you're seeing some of the semantics games playing out during the week.

But I think you can make no mistake, if you look at the comments made by the national security adviser. You heard the president in the Oval Office just a short while ago when he was signing these executive orders before leaving for Mar-a-Lago, saying that Iran is not behaving, that, as Nic was saying, this is a ratcheting up of rhetoric that could potentially lead to a larger confrontation down the road.

Now, at this point, the White House is being careful to say that these new sanctions that came out do not impact the Iran nuclear deal. For now, that stays in place. But when you talk about all options being on the table, that Iran nuclear deal presumably is one of those options that they could look at as well.


So, it's not just that we're not going to go from zero to 60 to military action I don't think any time soon.

BALDWIN: About to talk to somebody who helped broker that nuclear deal coming up here.

But, Nic and Jim, thank you both.

My next guest, one of the chief negotiators of that deal. And as the former country's energy secretary, President Obama relied on him to give classified briefings in part to assure lawmakers that the deal would prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. A nuclear physicist, he's been called one of the best prepared and most accomplished energy secretaries in history.

Ernest Moniz joins me live from MIT there in Cambridge.

Mr. Secretary, an honor to speak with you. Thank you so much, sir.

ERNEST MONIZ, FORMER U.S. ENERGY SECRETARY: Thank you, Brooke. BALDWIN: So you just heard it from those two gentlemen, Nic Robertson

and Jim Acosta, laying out this crescendo of the week from General Flynn's words to the tweets from the president to now these sanctions.

How do you read this? This is merely ratcheted up rhetoric or is something potentially more worrisome?

MONIZ: Well, Brooke, I think, in answering that question, it's important to understand again some history and some context.

First of all, a lot of the critique oft nuclear deal with Iran is not about the deal at all. It's about what the deal is not. What I mean by that is that the Iran agreement very strictly adheres to the issue of making sure Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program, and if they do try to go in that direction, that we in the international community will have plenty of warning and be able to respond.

That response, of course, involves a whole set of options. And we as well in the Obama administration made it clear that we were not taking options off the table.

But it's very important to remember the deal is about removing the existential threat of any risk of a nuclear weapon in Iran, by dramatically ratcheting back their nuclear program and dramatically enhancing, relative to any other agreement anywhere in the world, transparency and verification measures indefinitely.

BALDWIN: So, now you talk about obviously this very crucial existential threat of a nuclear Iran, then pivoted back to what I was asking you about in the back and forth between the White House and Iran and the personal Trump tweets out there for everyone to see, and whether it's just rhetoric or if you should be worried.

MONIZ: Well, again, I can't judge on what the next steps are going to be.

BALDWIN: No one really knows.


MONIZ: Of course.

But the fact is that, including when the deal was signed, number one, the sanctions lifted were only those relevant to the nuclear program, nothing to do with responses to missile tests, responses to terrorism support, the trouble that we see with Iran in Syria, in Yemen, you name it.

We did not have our eyes blind to that, quite the contrary. We said -- and we followed through on enhancing our military collaboration with the Gulf countries, with Israel. And I think what the Trump White House has done is say, look, there's been a missile test, ballistic missile test. Obviously, we don't like it.

We didn't like it. The new team doesn't like it. And we are going to move forward with sanctions targeted at the entities involved with missiles. And this is not part of the nuclear deal. Let me make it very clear.


BALDWIN: I think it's so important. I was listening to someone I really respect, "Washington Post"'s Karen Tumulty, earlier today, who was saying that she's worrying that people are conflating these two things, right?

You have the ballistic missile test. And that's one issue. And that's the sanctions. And then you have what you helped broker, this Iran nuclear deal, two very separate issues that obviously all involve the same country.

MONIZ: Yes, they are certainly technically separate. That's for sure.

The nuclear deal, as I said, does not deal with missiles. And we continued to push back. We did. And now the new team is pushing back on missile tests. We -- let me make it very clear one thing that was said just a few minutes ago that I, you won't be surprised, totally disagree with.

The idea that this Iran deal is not a good one for the United States is -- just does not pass the test of rigorous thinking, frankly.


BALDWIN: You know that's what Republicans have been saying all along, including candidate Trump on the trail.

MONIZ: Correct.

And what I'm saying is, that doesn't pass the laugh test, to be perfectly frank about it, because look at what happened before the deal, 20,000 centrifuges. We could go on and on, a reactor that could make a lot of plutonium for weapons. That's all been dialed back with a dramatic reduction to get -- to take that threat off the table.


It's not so different from what President Reagan did, I might remind them. When he negotiated arms control agreements with the Soviet Union, we had lots and lots of other problems with the Soviet Union in the Cold War.

But dialogue on addressing the existential threat of nuclear weapons is the path he chose to take. It's the same path President Obama chose to take. And that deal is based upon international cooperation. Without that, we would not have the strength of a sanctions regime, for example.

And my good friend Brent Scowcroft, Republican national security adviser, he stated very eloquently, if we walk away from this deal now, we walk away alone. If we walk away alone, we will not have the international support for not only enforcing the agreement, but to try to bring back effective sanctions. So our best play by far is to continue to make sure that Iran and all the partners adhere to the nuclear deal, and on a separate track in a certain sense, we have to keep addressing the terrorism issues, the human rights issues and the ballistic missile issues.

BALDWIN: I understand, I understand, Mr. Secretary, but again just also back on the president's own words on Twitter. The fact that he tweeted about Iran is playing with fire, they don't appreciate how "kind" -- in quotes -- President Obama was to them, not to me, and then also being asked about potential military action, saying that's not off the table, how do you hear that?

MONIZ: Well, again, I would say the language is certainly a ratcheting up from the reactions that we had in the Obama period.

But in terms of actions, we in fact imposed additional sanctions for non-nuclear activities. I believe the current team is saying that in fact the sanctions they announced today stem from some of the due diligence, if you like, done in the previous administration.

BALDWIN: That's correct.

MONIZ: So I think the language has changed, and I do believe language is important. And we have to make sure this does not spiral out of control.

But the idea is that we, like the current White House, certainly pushed back in terms of activities outside the agreement. And there were many of them with which we had a lot of problems.

BALDWIN: Secretary Moniz, just one more quick question on former Texas Governor Rick Perry, the next energy secretary. He was confirmed this week. And I know he's been criticized for having very little knowledge or experience on nuclear or climate change. What's your best piece of advice for him?

MONIZ: Well, my advice for him has been, first of all, to recognize the enormous strengths of the Department of Energy.

And I believe in his confirmation hearing statement, he acknowledged that and understands the tremendous reach, the tremendous importance of the Department of Energy, with a very, very strong foundation in science and technology in our national laboratory system, which, again, he praised in his opening statement to the Congress.

So I think Governor Perry, he is an experienced executive. Obviously, he was governor of Texas for many, many years. I think he will surround himself, he needs to surround himself certainly, as I did, with a very talented team of diverse experiences to be able to manage all the different missions of the Department of Energy, including the clean energy and innovation mission, relevant to climate and the nuclear security mission, of which Iran is only one piece.

There's the whole nuclear weapons stockpile and many other dimensions. So, I think that, first of all, having a confirmed secretary is good for the department, providing direction. And I think, again, he will need now to take some time to assemble a very, very strong team that can address all of the department's missions, which are very, very critical for the country.

BALDWIN: Secretary Ernest Moniz, thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it, sir.

MONIZ: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Just into us here at CNN, we have some new fallout surrounding that raid in Yemen that killed a Navy SEAL last weekend, as well as more than a dozen civilians, U.S. military releasing video earlier today that they say was obtained from Sunday's raid in Yemen.

Turns out that was actually not the case.

Pentagon reporter Ryan Browne joins me now live to explain what exactly happened.

They said this was part of the intel from the raid, and now not so much.

RYAN BROWNE, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, actually, Brooke, it turns out actually the video was obtained on the raid, in fact. It was part of this cache of documents and files that were acquired by the U.S. Navy SEALs.


But initially the military put it out as new video, something that had been unseen before, when, in fact, it came out pretty soon after that this video had actually been online for some time put out by groups that were kind of spreading al Qaeda propaganda.

So, this video had actually been in kind of public domain for years, so that was a bit of a mixup. The military subsequently pulled the video from its Web site order to not -- make sure that people weren't confused that they were saying this was new. So, there was a bit of confusion.

The military did admit they had rushed to get it out. The U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. forces in the region, said they were rushing to get it out because they felt they wanted to show the public some of the evidence of the things that had been acquired in the raid that had gotten so much media attention.

They said there wasn't any pressure for them to get it from their higher headquarters, no pressure from the White House, no pressure from the Pentagon. This was what they called an organic decision actually from some of the local units that were actually involved in the task force that oversaw the raid.

So the military is kind of having a little bit to walk this back, a little bit of an embarrassing moment. But they're still very adamant that intelligence that is actionable, intelligence that is providing valuable insight into the terror group was indeed obtained, and that they're analyzing that information now, and it's already providing critical intel.

So we're seeing a little bit of an issue there with the raid and continuing to see new information come out of this -- so back to you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: All right, Ryan Browne, thank you at the Pentagon.

Coming up, President Trump signing an executive order today rolling back a key piece from the Obama era, what it means for the U.S. economy. And is it fair for the White House to claim credit for the strong January jobs reports numbers that were out today?

Also ahead, the future of Obamacare. Is repeal perhaps becoming more of a repair job? What CNN is learning about behind-the-scenes effort to transform health care in the country.

And with key votes awaiting Trump's Cabinet picks, why this just might be a historic moment for switchboard operators on Capitol Hill. You heard how about busy they are? We will be right back.



BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Moments ago, President Trump signed an executive order that sets in motion the rollback of a piece of legislation meant to prevent another great recession, when trillions of dollars in wealth was wiped out. But critics, including President Trump, say what is known as the Dodd- Frank law is now keeping businesses from happening while failing to protect you the consumer.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We expect to be cutting a lot out of Dodd-Frank, because, frankly, I have so many people, friends of mine, that have nice businesses, they can't borrow money. They just can't get any money, because the banks just won't let them borrow because of the rules and regulations in Dodd-Frank, so we will be talking about that.


BALDWIN: We've got two great voices here.

Austan Goolsbee once chaired the Council of Economic Advisers under former President Obama, who now teaches at the University of Chicago. And Peter Morici is a professor of international business at the University of Maryland.

So, welcome, welcome to both of you.

Austan, first just to you, on Dodd-Frank, I know there's the administrative piece, which was addressed with the executive action today. Then there's the legislative piece, which obviously has to be addressed with Congress.

But, bottom line, when I was listening to Sean Spicer in that briefing today, he said Dodd-Frank was a disaster, his word, hasn't at all achieved its goal. What do you think?

AUSTAN GOOLSBEE, FORMER CHAIRMAN, COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: Look, when you go start ripping up the rules of the road, it scares me.

I'm not saying Dodd-Frank was perfect. Clearly, like all other large legislation that we have ever passed in the United States, it's got things in it that could be adjusted and improved.

But when you're talking about things like we're going to repeal conflict of interest laws, we're going to allow companies to make corrupt payments that they don't have to disclose, we're no longer going to protect consumers, we're going to let banks engage in the kind of mass leveraging that led to the financial crisis, it just makes me nervous.

Hopefully, we won't have another 2008, but tearing up the rules of the road is not a good start.

BALDWIN: No one wants to see 2008 ever, ever, ever again.

Peter, Austan is a little nervous. How do you feel about this?

PETER MORICI, ECONOMIST, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: Well, I think it comes down to reforming Dodd-Frank.

It's kind of like repeal and replace, we don't want to just throw it out. There were a lot of excesses that led to the financial crisis. And the trick is to have a prudent level of regulation that it discourages that kind of behavior.

We know, unless we shut the banks down, we can't keep them from doing imprudent things, because, after all, they're lending other people's money. So, by its nature, banking is unstable.

But I went into a bank with Dylan Ratigan, who was an anchor on another network.

BALDWIN: We have him on.


MORICI: And I went to basically the bank that was -- it's the bank in Upstate New York that was the basis for the Jimmy Stewart Christmas movie.

We went to the Savings and Loan. And the president of the bank pulled out this big telephone book and he says, this is my rules the Bailey Savings and Loan, for writing a mortgage. And he says, I can't possibly do this. What is more, I didn't make any bad loans. We have to get the rules right. We have to not over-regulate people.

But I have concerns too, because, after all, look who's going to be doing the rewriting. A bunch of guys from Goldman Sachs.

BALDWIN: Sure. Sure.

GOOLSBEE: Yes, fair point.

BALDWIN: And, maybe to your point, with the parallel with Obamacare, maybe it's more of the repair option.

You're getting ahead of me on this segment on that. But, guys, when you look at these numbers from today, the jobs numbers, 227,000 jobs gained, 4.8 percent unemployment. Not that this should be a matter who gets the credit, but it is a question that is being asked. Is it President Obama? Is it President Trump? This is how Sean Spicer answered this one.



SPICER: Today's report reflects the consumer confidence that the Trump presidency has inspired.

When you look at the confidence indexes, I think that you have seen the actions that he's taken, whether it's Carrier or some of the other companies, Sprint and SoftBank. Clearly, there's a desire for companies to want to come be part of this Trump agenda to build, and manufacture, create jobs, bring jobs back.


BALDWIN: Austan, who do you think should be able to wrap his arms around and say I did this?

GOOLSBEE: Look, this month is the longest string of private sector job growth in the history of the United States.

And I think what you just saw is, we had the starting quarterback in for the last seven years of recovery. They took him out with 30 seconds left in the Super Bowl, and now the new guy is like, I won the game.

It's absurd.

BALDWIN: He's spiking the football, but it's not really his team to claim?

GOOLSBEE: The unemployment rate is done -- the survey for the unemployment rate, the reference week that the jobs numbers came from, was before Donald Trump was in office. So they're for sure trying to take credit for something that happened before they got there.

BALDWIN: Peter, what do you think? Who's the star Q.B. in this metaphor? MORICI: Barack Obama.

BALDWIN: Barack Obama.

MORICI: Let's be clear. He was president of the United States when the survey was taken.

If this had been a lousy month, Sean Spicer would have been up there saying, well, we're here to fix this mess.

That said, let's not overstate what Barack Obama accomplished. He didn't take over the deepest, worst unemployment rate of any president since the Depression. That was Ronald Reagan. His unemployment rate peaked at 10.8 percent.

He accomplished better than 4 percent growth, Barack Obama 2. He created almost twice as many jobs per month in a much smaller economy. I think we can do better. Now it's up to these guys to show us that they can keep their promises and do it. It's going to be interesting to watch them try.


BALDWIN: Well, the markets have responded. The Dow is up 170. I can tell you that with a half-an-hour to go in the trading day.

But you both agree, star Q.B., Barack Obama.

Gentlemen, thank you both very much. Happy weekend. Happy Super Bowl, speaking of football.

GOOLSBEE: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, Obamacare, repeal and replace, or repair, which is it? What CNN is learning about the behind-the-scenes efforts to transform Americans' health care.

Also ahead, President Trump's pick for education secretary is set for a full confirmation vote on Monday. But, as you well know, two Republicans are already saying they will vote no. Is there a real chance that Betsy DeVos may not get the job?